A Violent End to a Desperate Dream Leaves a Guatemalan Town Grieving


The trek from Central America to U.S. soil has all the time been perilous, however a bloodbath with many victims from one nook of Guatemala has shaken that nation.


They go away behind properties, households, every thing they’ve recognized, taking their possibilities on a harmful trek north towards an unsure future, pushed by poverty, lack of alternative and the hope of one thing higher.

For most migrants who go away Central America, like these from the municipality of Comitancillo, within the mountains of western Guatemala, the aim is to attain the United States, discover work, avoid wasting cash and ship some again dwelling, put down roots, perhaps even discover love and begin a household. Usually, the largest impediment is crossing the more and more fortified American border with out being caught.

A group of 13 migrants who left Comitancillo in January didn’t even get the prospect. Their our bodies had been discovered, together with these of six different victims, shot and burned; the corpses had been piled at the back of a pickup truck that had been set on fireplace and deserted within the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, simply shy of the U.S. border. A dozen state police officers have been arrested in reference to the bloodbath.

The migrants’ stays made the return journey on Friday, March 12, every in a coffin draped with the Guatemalan flag, flown to a army airport in Guatemala City. A somber repatriation ceremony there, with an deal with by President Alejandro Giammattei, was proven reside on nationwide tv. Relatives, mates and neighbors in Comitancillo watched the printed of their properties as they made last preparations for the arrival of the our bodies and for the wakes and burials to comply with.

At nightfall, after climbing alongside the switchbacks that wind by means of Guatemala’s western highlands, the cortege of automobiles carrying 12 of the coffins arrived in Comitancillo. Community leaders and the victims’ households obtained the our bodies in a ceremony in town’s soccer area.

Above, neighbors stand on an outcrop watching the welcoming ceremony in a soccer area in Comitancillo. Below, seating was restricted to shut relations.

Some mourned from behind a fence, within the glow of an ambulance’s emergency lights.

It’s a widespread lament in Comitancillo: There is not any work, there aren’t any possibilities to get forward. Farming is a most important supply of native earnings for the largely Indigenous inhabitants, a lot of whom communicate a Mayan language, however the fields of wheat, corn and potatoes that drape the close by hillsides can solely generate a lot work.

As a outcome, some younger residents search jobs within the capital. Many extra, nonetheless, set their sights farther away, within the United States. Mónica Aguilón, a group chief who serves as director of the municipality’s cultural heart, estimated that some 80 % of the Comitancillo’s youth migrate — “because there are no employment opportunities, neither in the municipality nor in the country.”

A good portion of the municipality’s diaspora has settled in Mississippi, notably in and across the city of Carthage, the place some have discovered work within the space’s poultry processing vegetation. Other concentrations of Comitecos — as natives of the municipality are known as — have shaped in New York, Oklahoma and elsewhere. They ship again remittances that help households, pay for the development of latest properties and maintain native companies.

But getting there has by no means been straightforward, particularly the navigation by means of Mexico’s lawlessness. Criminals, generally working hand-in-hand with corrupt officers, stalk the migratory routes, robbing, extorting, kidnapping and generally killing migrants.

Though many migrants from Comitancillo have been victimized en route to the United States, the municipality had by no means skilled something even approaching the horror of the bloodbath in January.

“This was the worst case,” Ms. Aguilón mentioned.

During the ceremony on the soccer area in Comitancillo, the Rev. Mario Aguilón Cardona, a native parish priest, demanded an finish to violence in opposition to migrants in Mexico. “No more!” he mentioned in a homily, in accordance to The Associated Press. “No more violence against migrants.”

Above, nuns attend the welcome ceremony. Below, a cortege carrying the coffins of 12 of the victims arrives on the soccer area in Comitancillo.

Irma Yolanda Ximena Pérez, an aunt of Rivaldo Danilo Jiménez, 18, who was one of many victims, was comforted by a relative.

When the Friday night ceremony was over, the victims’ households, touring in small processions, carried the coffins dwelling, some following rugged, dusty roads that department out from the city heart and lead to the hillside villages from which the migrants had departed solely weeks earlier.

They crowded with mates into small homes made from adobe brick or concrete block for wakes that prolonged late into the night time. Some of the deceased had been buried on Saturday, others on Sunday.

The 13 victims from Comitancillo included ten males and boys and three girls, practically all of their late teenagers and early 20s.

Among them, Edgar López was one thing of an anomaly. Not solely was he, at 49 years previous, considerably older than the others, however he was not a lot leaving dwelling as heading dwelling: Mr. López was making an attempt to reunite along with his spouse and three youngsters within the United States, the place he had lived for greater than twenty years.

A band taking part in outdoors a home that Mr. López had inbuilt Chicajalaj, a village within the municipality of Comitancillo, with remittances he despatched again from the United States.

A funeral procession that carried Mr. López’s coffin from his home to his mum or dad’s home.

Mr. López first entered the United States illegally within the late 1990s, settling in Carthage along with his spouse and daughter. He was deported quickly after, however shortly circled and headed north as soon as once more, efficiently getting into the United States for a second time and reuniting along with his household.

In Carthage, Mr. López discovered work within the space’s poultry vegetation, and he and his spouse had two extra youngsters, each American-born, mentioned the Rev. Odel Medina, the priest at St. Anne Catholic Church in Carthage, the place Mr. López was a parish chief.

But in 2019, Mr. López was detained once more by immigration officers throughout a raid on the factory the place he labored. He was held in detention for many of a 12 months, making an attempt to combat deportation.

He stayed in contact with Reverend Medina. “He was always trying to organize groups to pray and have faith and keep strong,” the priest recalled.

Mr. López lastly misplaced his authorized battle, nonetheless, and was deported to Guatemala in 2020, Reverend Medina mentioned. Desperately lacking his household, he determined in January to strive his luck once more and migrate north for a third time, the reverend mentioned.

Last Saturday, kinfolk attended a wake for Mr. López in his dad and mom’ dwelling. The funeral service was held in a church within the village of Chicajalaj, the development of which he had helped fund by elevating cash among the many Guatemalan diaspora in Mississippi.

Above, kinfolk held wake for Mr. López. During a procession, under, carrying Mr. López’s stays to the church after which to a cemetery, his cousin, Sebastián López, 75, clutched a framed portrait of his useless relative.

Mr. López’s daughter, Evelin López, left a can of Coca-Cola, a favourite drink of his, as a tribute inside his tomb. It was her first journey to Guatemala.

In the house of Santa Cristina García Pérez, 20, one other bloodbath sufferer, relations had adorned an altar with framed photographs, flowers and a bottle of water — in order that Ms. García’s spirit didn’t undergo from thirst on its journey to the subsequent life, her father, Ricardo García Pérez, defined.

Before she migrated, Mr. García mentioned, his daughter had been dwelling for 3 years within the metropolis of Zacapa, on the opposite facet of the nation, holding a collection of low-paying jobs, together with as a home cleaner and as a saleswoman in shops.

One of 11 siblings, Ms. García hoped to make sufficient cash within the United States to cowl the price of an operation for her one-year-old sister, Angela Idalia, who was born with a cleft lip, her father mentioned.

She wished to save Ángela Idalia from what she thought could be a lifetime of ridicule, kinfolk mentioned.

Ms. García had hoped to make it to Miami, the place a buddy was dwelling, “but unfortunately her life was cut short on the way,” her father mentioned.

“The saddest thing in life,” he continued. “There’s no explanation.”

Relatives gathered on the mass for Ms. García and two different victims, Iván Gudiel Pablo Tomás and Rivaldo Danilo Jiménez, all of them from the village of Tuilelén.

Below, Ricardo García Pérez and Olga Pérez Guzmán de García, Ms. García’s dad and mom, throughout her wake.

The killings have surprised the group, spurred a wave of worldwide media consideration on Comitancillo and an outpouring of economic help for the sufferer’s households. Among different acts of largess, donations from close by communities within the area and from the Guatemalan diaspora have paid for Ángela Idalia’s first surgical procedure to restore her cleft lip and have enabled the García household to construct a new home.

Yet native residents predict that regardless of the bloodbath, migration from Comitancillo to the United States won’t ebb.

Residents mentioned that President Biden’s election and his promise of a extra humane strategy to migration coverage had impressed many younger Comitecos to set off for the United States prior to now few months. Many others are serious about leaving quickly, residents mentioned.

The choices for employment in Guatemala are too scarce, Ms. Aguilón mentioned, and the lure of risk within the United States too nice.

“For us, it was a very big blow,” she mentioned of the bloodbath. “But this won’t prevent the people from migrating.”

Relatives and neighbors attending the funeral of Ms. García, Mr. Pablo and Mr. Jiménez.

Mr. Jiménez’s coffin being carried to Tuilelén cemetery, above, and mates and kinfolk carrying the coffin of Mr. Pablo.



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